When I moved to California a little over a year ago did I see my life as it is now? No I absolutely did not. I never imagined I’d have an incredibly big garden that is growing like crazy in the perfect California weather ALL YEAR long. I also never imagined that I would have a flock of chickens in that garden giving me the freshest eggs right in my backyard.
Why become an Urban Chicken Farmer?
Having hens is like having any other pet; they love you as much as you love them. Bonus? They give me fresh eggs almost everyday! Another reason is that I know where the eggs come from and know that the chickens are treated humanely. These eggs don’t come from a factory farm where chickens remain caged for their entire life. Also the eggs from home-raised chickens tend to taste better, with yolks richer in color and whites that stand up better in meringues.
They’re even healthier for you! In a recent nutrition test, Mother Earth News found that fresh farm eggs are significantly healthier than factory farm eggs. They have:
- 1/3 less cholesterol
- 1/4 less saturated fat
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- Two times more omega-3 fatty acids
- Three times more vitamin E
- Seven times more beta carotene
My Chicken Family
I have three chickens roosting in my garden. Felicia, a Plymoth White Rock, is the oldest and by far the biggest of the hens. The other two are Rhode Island Reds named Penny and Miss Bianca, named after the characters in the Disney movie, The Rescuers. Though it turns out this was by accident!
I didn’t even realize the connection until days later when we were coming up with a name for the chicken coop, Morningside Manor, which in the movie is the orphanage Penny grew up in.
The Chicken Journey Begins
The experience of being chicken farmers with Justin has been a fun one. Raising chickens isn’t incredibly difficult, but there is a lot to learn when it comes to being an Urban Chicken Farmer, much of which we had to learn on the fly. What kind of flooring and bedding should you have? How are you protecting the coop from other animals including the ones who will dig under the walls? What can they eat? What can’t they eat? And perhaps the scariest of all, what do you do when they get sick?
My Chicken is Sick What Do We Do?
Within a few weeks of having the chickens we noticed Felicia was acting a little funny. Sneezy, bubbles on her eyes and yawning a lot. There isn’t a WebMD for chickens but there are really incredible sites like Backyard Chickens. When your hens get sick it’s unlikely that your everyday veterinarian will even see them.
Thankfully Google was at our service. Within moments of reading on Backyard Chickens we knew what was wrong. Our little Felicia was the one who got sick a few weeks after living in the coop. Browsing around there we determined that she had a common respiratory illness and needed antibiotics.
Where do you get these antibiotics? I can tell you that in San Diego, Petsmart, Petco and Walmart can’t help you. Time to quickly find and become friends with your local feed store. We purchased the antibiotics and began treating the entire flock
We also had to separate Felicia from the other two to limit exposure. This means we of course built another entire coop. While we meant for it to be temporary, by the time we finished it we wanted to keep it! Now it’s a permanent fixture in the yard. We call their vacation home.
Thankfully Felicia recovered from her illness and continues to enjoy life and bossing around the other girls at Morningside Manor.
Chickens The Perfect Pet
When you think of chickens you probably don’t imagine them being a pet. But let me just say they are a perfect backyard pet. They have amazing personalities, each one so different from the other and are actually incredibly friendly. Plus they actually give you something tangible in return, EGGS!
Raising chickens also helps remind you that your food comes from somewhere or something other than the grocery store.
Raising the chickens yourself takes you back to a time when families farmed and raised animals to survive. I think this is one of the most important lessons you learn when you become an urban farmer, especially if you have kids. They’ll learn that it’s not just about getting the eggs each day, but that there is a lot more that goes into that process such as cleaning the coop and otherwise caring for the chickens.
Once you start caring for your chickens you’ll want to continue it for a lifetime. There is nothing like raising your own chickens and going out every morning to get the new eggs. Or having one of them fly up on your shoulder for a nap!
Check My Girls Out “The Real Hens of San Diego” #RHOSD
You can keep up to date on all the chicken shenanigans at Morningside Manor by liking my girls Facebook at The Real Hens of San Diego, on Twitter at @TheRealHensOfSD, and on Instagram at @TheRealHensOfSD